Art law is the body of law that regulates the creation and use of art, and frequently overlaps with other areas of law such as commercial, contract, cultural property, intellectual property, international, and tax law. The creation of a fine work of art is perhaps the highest form of human expression. Billions of dollars in wealth change hands each year in the vibrant and unregulated art industry. Recently, in a single transaction, a 1955 work by Pablo Picasso entitled Les Femmes d’Alger fetched a whopping $179.4 million sale price, shattering a record for the highest purchase at an auction house. With the advent of the digital age, it is no small wonder that the media now has a growing fascination with art market activities.
For most, fine art is simply an investment; for some, it is at the heart of a controversy; and yet for others, it is a product of creative work. Collectors, galleries, dealers, artists, and heirs often face sophisticated legal and commercial questions surrounding the authenticity, purchase, sale, and sometimes recovery, of stolen works of art.
With offices in the art hubs of Los Angeles and New York, Watson LLP negotiates and litigates on behalf of clients facing numerous legal issues surrounding fine works of art, including auctioneers’ and dealers’ duties and rights, joint authorship, authenticity disputes, consignment agreements, licensing and merchandising agreements, museum franchising, copyrights in fine works of art, importation and exportation issues, moral rights and the Visual Artists Rights Act, art sales through the Internet, lost and stolen works, misappropriation of artistic expression, and criminal trial and grand jury subpoenas.